Saturday, December 31, 2016

Saturday, December 24, 2016

On the Eve of Incarnation

We awaken in Christ’s body
as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him

(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in his Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once

He appears like a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous?—Then

open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one

who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,

we wake up inside Christ’s body

where all our body, all over,

every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably

damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in His light
he awakens as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Hymn 15, as translated in The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, ed. Stephen Mitchell (New York: HarperPerennial, 1993), pp. 38-39. Quoted from Poetry Chaikana Blog: Sacred Poetry from around the World.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

One Morning Past Solstice

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not put it out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman: Elijah

At the margin: between land and sea, between fire and water, between flesh and spirit, between resignation and hope. As Oscar lived.
Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu
v’al kol-yisrael, v’imru: “amen.”

Saturday, December 17, 2016

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman: Yehoshua

Oscar's meditation on his mortality as his cancer advanced.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hermitage V: Tonglen

I don’t share a lot of explicit detail here about my sexual practices. Our erotic lives are dense with personal history, with private meanings that we don’t even ourselves consciously understand. I'd rather make room for people to explore their own inner landscapes than clutter the space between us with my own psychodynamic tchachkes. (Then too, maybe sometimes a still-internalized fear of shaming also holds me back.)

But long walks in the woods have a way of clarifying things, like when to put your money where your mouth is. So after two hours out on the trail this afternoon, here we are: sex in the hermitage. Masturbation, prayer, and how one can flow into the other. 
I’ll start by sharing something about me that will speak to some and not to others. As tortured as my relationship to wanking was all through my adolescence (and maybe because my relationship to it was so tortured in those formative years) it remains a staple of my erotic life. In recent years , men like me have increasingly claimed the emerging label of the “solosexual.”  Thank God for a website like Bateworld. Thank God for groups like the New York Jacks and the San Francisco Jacks and the Rain City Jacks, for every small local group some generous man is willing to host, and for periodic events like Healthy Friction. 

It’s not simply that I masturbate, like virtually all human males over the age of  thirteen or so. It’s not simply that my own cock and balls offer me pleasure and satisfaction beyond what most of us are willing to admit, given generations of repression and censure, contempt and derision for the most universal and readily available sexual experience men can have. It’s that I find my own body intensely erotic. Stroking myself to orgasm means as much to me as sex with partners. 

I’d never want to face a choice between sex with myself and sex with others. If I had to, I’d probably pick myself, behind Door Number One. I can and do relate lovingly to all sorts of people I don’t and would never have sex with. On the other hand, when it comes to sex, whenever I’m in the mood, by happy coincidence so am I. 

Solosexuality involves a lot more, though, than just an easy date:  the difference between a quick wank to get off and the deliberate, extended cultivation of pleasure, the practice of “edging,” whether for an hour or two or over whole days or weeks; the conscious, intentional spreading of energy and focus to the erotic capacities of one's whole body. Paradoxically, some solosexual men are as reluctant to reach ejaculatory orgasm as any devout Catholic schoolboy of the 1950’s. Not in fear of mortal sin, but in commitment to the heightened energy and juiciness of staying open to desire for as long as possible. 

Like many men for whom masturbation isn’t second best, or last resort, I do indeed want to share my solosexuality with others. I’d much rather have the opportunity to masturbate with another man, or with a group of men, than always experience the joy of my own body alone. I won’t try to explain this right now for those who don’t already “get it.” The depth of the fraternal bond between comrades that I’m talking about is either comprehensible to you, or it isn’t. You’re fine, either way: if you don’t get it, we’re just different. If you do get it, let me know if you’re free Sunday afternoons.
Even mentioning the potential depth of that bond, though, witnesses to how intensely I want to understand my solosexual side in spiritual terms. It’s as important for me to do so as it is to understand my sexual relationships with others in spiritual terms. 

When solosexual men find spaces to share about our experience, it emerges pretty quickly how profoundly centered we feel, sinking into the pleasure we give ourselves. When we go deeper, without distraction, everything else can drop away, just as it does in the most intense interpersonal lovemaking. We can find ourselves as blissfully absorbed in the present moment as we might be in deep meditation. Arguably, such an experience is deep meditation, as masturbation gurus like Bruce Grether, and more recently Jason Armstrong, have argued.  

So, finally--back to my week of hermitage, in the woods of southern Indiana... 

Two weeks before I made this pilgrimage, I formed an intention  to spend my time here cultivating and raising my erotic energy without release until the final night of my retreat. I don’t know why. Tantric practitioners talk a lot about the benefits of semen retention. I’ve never been drawn to the prescriptions of Indian ayurveda, at least not as passed on in the West. But I understand from direct experience how  emotionally open I’ve become on retreats where I’ve been encouraged to refrain from ejaculation, how intensely aware I’ve become of a Divine Presence enlivening me and deepening my connections with others. Something (where did this come from?) led me to choose this path for myself during this present week of prayer and simplified living. I asked a far-away friend (yes, another solosexual, and a tantrika into the bargain) to support my resolve, checking in daily by phone to anchor my intention.  

And then, it just started getting weirder, if you’re already wondering what planet I’m writing from. The night I arrived,  I set up my altar, burned incense, hung fabric and prayer flags around the room. The next day, six men were due to arrive for the weekend in response to my invitation to share two days of intentional community. As I prepared and consecrated the cabin,  a conviction enveloped me that I was laying my erotic energy at their feet. I’d use the emotional openness I hoped would result in order to hold space for them more lovingly throughout their two days as my guests. Upon their departure, I’d lay my erotic energy at the foot of my altar, in service to myself, and in communion with the Holy One who is, in the end, the best lover of all--as John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila knew so well. 

As the week has gone on, in these later days of solitude, breath and genital stimulation have complemented and balanced each other in my erotic practice: genital touch energizing breath, and breath enabling a heightened control of the urge to ejaculate. Seated before my altar, I imagine myself engaged in a version of the Tibetan Buddhist practice of tonglen: taking in the difficulties experienced by others, transforming them, and then breathing out healing and peace for their benefit and the benefit of all sentient beings. I’ve found myself praying through masturbation, found myself transmuting masturbation into prayer. Most vividly of all this morning when my friend checking in on the phone was as caught up in his erotic trance as I was in mine. 

I won’t describe more specifically how I’ve pursued all this,  visualized it, verbalized it, nor about how I intend to ritualize the release of energy that will close my weeklong practice. Partly because the details  are as likely to shut some readers out as to invite them in. But partly because (and maybe this is just a different way of saying the same thing), like many initiations into esoteric ritual practice, the transmission has to occur face to face and in living speech, when the time is right.

Even if you’ve drawn a blank on a lot of what I’ve described, you’ve still persevered to these last lines. If so, I hope that you feel invited into a calling we do indeed share as queer spiritual seekers living our lives in male bodies: to unite flesh with spirit; to forge links between earth and heaven; to become ourselves the ladder on which angels ascend and descend. If, on the other hand, you’re a brother solosexual--may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart bless you on your way.


In Memory of Oscar Wolfman

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hermitage IV: Reaching Back

On the altar of my hermitage sits a faded color snapshot of me at the age of six.  It took a long time for that little boy to make it out of a shoebox on the top shelf of a closet.  

He’s putting on a brave face for the camera, but he’s not happy about being on display. He’s already self-conscious about being chubby.  He’s already felt the shame of being always the one picked last for teams on the playground. Still in the future lies his humiliation at the effeminacy he’ll hear  and hate in his own voice on a tape recorder; and later his self-recrimination for the homophobic taunts directed at him by other boys in gym class. Over the decades, his shame will turn into a young man’s self-loathing for the child he’d been.  

My task now, and increasingly my joy, is to father that boy. To reach back across half a century, to bring him to this cabin. To make a home for him here. To tell him that he’s just fine, he’s beautiful, he’s worthy of love. In showing compassion towards him, I find my compassion for others.

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman: Daleth

Sunday, December 11, 2016

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman: Menorah

Three little candles...


Hermitage III: On Choosing a Staff

This side of sixty, I find walking in the woods just a little dodgier. The numbness in my right foot, the result of some serious lower back defects, has advanced enough these last couple of years to affect my balance on uneven terrain. It doesn’t help that I snapped a tendon in the other ankle on a flip turn in the pool one afternoon about five years ago, either.  I’ve arrived at the point that, scrambling over roots and stones, a walking stick feels like a comfort and a reassurance.  

And also: an admission of advancing age; a reminder of the tenuousness of physical health; a challenge to my gay male fixation on fitness and a body as toned and strong as I can keep it. If I need a stick now, will I even be able to take this walk at all in fifteen years? Or in ten? Everything that arises, the Buddha tells us, is subject to dissolution. That would include me. Or at least, would include what I habitually think of as me. 

I’m not yet ready to buy the stick I expect I’ll eventually carry more continuously. So setting out from the cabin down the slope onto this afternoon’s trail,  I scanned the fallen leaves for likely prospects. I found a thin, supple, surprisingly straight piece of vinewood, probably left there by someone who’d used it as well. I liked the spring of it, how it responded to pressure. I could count on it, but not for too much. It offered just enough reassurance, gave me just enough added stability to feel more fully the pleasure of starting off down into the ravine. I had to pay conscious attention to it as a companion on the journey. In return, it reminded me that I was a man of a certain age, walking a trail exactly as a man of a certain age should do.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016

Hermitage II: Paths and Road Maps

I remember, decades ago, joking with friends in college about the words of a fundamentalist Sunday School song: “I’m using my Bible for a road map.” Already when I was twenty, it seemed like a bad metaphor to live by. Looking back now, I see that I needed humor as a way of defending myself against claims of biblical literalism: perhaps I still had misgivings at gut level that maybe Jerry Falwell and his crew were right.

Long since, I’ve pulled  far away from the notion that Scripture (of any tradition) could function as instructions-in-advance for how to live from day to day. I no longer spend much time dwelling on whether other people still believe that. Except that I know how much damage it does in the world to have fundamentalists loose in it, raising kids, running school boards and local governments--and coming to wield increased influence as well at a national level. Or for that matter, declaring brutally repressive caliphates, or justifying the seizure of Palestinian land. 

I’m sitting at the kitchen table of the cabin I’ve rented to allow myself a week’s retreat. I’m gazing out at the Indiana woods of my childhood. Speaking of fundamentalists: the smiling, photogenic, soft-spoken fascist governor of this state will become Vice-President in six weeks. A heartbeat away from the office that will be occupied by a narcissistic charlatan who’s currently conducting the selection of his cabinet like another season of The Apprentice. 

Sometimes, in the interest of keeping hope alive and saving strength to contribute to the next struggle,  in however small a way you can, you just have to detach from what’s happened to the level of public life, and go inward for a while. That’s what I came here for.
The wood stove in the middle of the room is softly whistling as it draws air. There’s a nuthatch outside doing laps around the trunk of a hickory tree. Later I’ll warm up soup for dinner. I’ll go on writing, perhaps read, perhaps use the Tarot to help me look at something in my life a little differently. At the end of the week, I’ll spend an hour in meditation in front of my altar, before I disassemble it and pack my belongings to head back to the bland sanity of Canada before dawn. 

Earlier this afternoon, in the best light the day had to offer, I went for a walk along Trail Number 3 through the state park where I’ve rented my hermitage-for-a-week. I found great pleasure in (a) not knowing where I was going and (b) trusting that someone did, who long ago groomed the trail. It felt like gift and adventure to see only ten or twenty paces at a time ahead of my feet. 

Maybe I started contemplating the difference between road maps and paths because the road ran parallel to the trail for a good fifteen minutes, curving up the same rise, twisting back again, before I finally headed off down another slope toward a steep ravine where a rivulet laughed underneath a footbridge. In any case, I’ve come to a point in my life where spiritually, as well as literally, it feels both more honest and more satisfying to walk a path on which I know only as much of the route as I need in order to take my next steps, in trust that somehow, I’ll go on finding myself where I’m supposed to be.

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman: Looking Forward to Hanukkah

Oscar gave the title "Menorah" to a series of images of men posed with one arm raised. Hanukkah starts very late this year (the evening of December 24, aka Erev Christmas), but there's no time like the present.

One little candle...

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hermitage I

Deep in the forest
where ice hasn’t formed--a pool
still flashing sunset.

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman

At the Black Eagle, Church Street, Toronto: Oscar among his tribe.

Monday, December 5, 2016

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman: Korban

Abraham and Isaac, as relocated to corporate downtown Toronto.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman

You might see this photo as sacrilege. Look again, in faith that nothing created is unholy. Take it as a playful invitation to contemplate the link between our flesh and our religious identities.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman

Oscar's deep knowledge of seventeeth-century painting informed many of his still lifes.


Friday, December 2, 2016

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman: Devir

"Devir": as commanded in the book of Leviticus, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies within the Temple only once a year. The rope around his ankle refers to a Talmudic midrash, which speculates that it was needed in order to drag him back out, in case God was in a bad mood and something went terribly wrong...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman: Entartete Kunst

The title of Oscar's second solo show, which he raced to complete in 2011 shortly before his death, was "Entartete Kunst." He borrowed the title from shows of "Degenerate Art" mounted by the Nazis in the 1930's as examples of decadence intended to justify National Socialist policies. As he pointed out, those exhibitions paradoxically introduced many viewers to modernist art who had never seen it before. In Oscar's show, he often substituted "Entartete Kunst" for the conventional "Untitled" of many photographs, the above image among them. Lengths of ribbon wrapped around the arms of men in a camp chorus line replace the tefiillin of orthodox Jewish prayer practice.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman: Akida

"Akida" is Hebrew for "binding." The word is often associated specifically with the Binding of Isaac in Genesis 22. Oscar evoked the episode in multiple photographs.

Friday, November 25, 2016

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman: Jeremiah

“I’m on gay cruising sites every morning,” said Oscar in an interview in connection with one of his solo exhibtions. “The advantage of the sites I use is that men show photos of themselves nude, so I can determine if they will be suitable. For the same reason, the other main place I find models is at the gym, where locker rooms and showers become audition venues. There are always a lot of muscular older men with long white beards in biblical tales, so if anyone reading this looks like an Old Testament prophet, contact me.”

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman

"Jael and Sisera." The title of Oscar's first solo exhibition, "Midrash," referred to the Jewish interpretive practice of filling in the material missing from Biblical narrative but required to make full sense of the story. This photograph offers a midrash on Judges 4:4-22.

Monday, November 21, 2016

In Memory of Oscar Wolfman (d. November 21, 2011)

Among Oscar's most memorable photographs was a suite of four images of a man dancing nude in a tallit (prayer shawl).

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Yahrzeit: In Memory of Oscar Wolfman (1955-2011)

Five years ago on November 21, we lost a brilliant gay outsider artist whose work, as he was fond of saying, was “too queer for Jews and too Jewish for queers.” It’s a great line, but the reception of his two solo shows, “Midrash,” in 2010, and “Entartete Kunst,” in 2011 just weeks before his death, witnessed to the power his lush, often cryptic, sometimes outrageous photography held for audiences that included queers, Jews, Jewish queers, and fellow travellers looking for our own Promised Land.

The only son of Holocaust survivors, raised in Montreal, a dancer, choreographer, chef, graduate student, and teacher, he came to photography late. His deep knowledge of European art, and especially of seventeenth-century of Italian painting; his immersion in Torah and Talmud; his inexhaustible love for the beauty of men and his provocative, shame-deflating celebration of their erotic energy; his wry sense of camp, which was at once just Jewish and just queer enough; a luminous faith in the holiness of the body, and of embodied pleasure and desire--all these emerge in work that those of us who remember him for his brilliant, generous, quirky, courtly self are determined will not pass into oblivion.
Traditional commemoration of the Yarhzeit--the anniversay of a loved one’s death--is made by reciting the Kaddish, the prayer on behalf of the dead, and by lighting a candle that will burn for twenty-four hours. It’s reckoned among the Orthodox according to the Hebrew calendar. But as queer a Jew and as Jewish a queer as Oscar was, I can’t believe he’d object to this alternative commemoration: the posting here of one of his images each day for the next month, from tomorrow until the Winter Solstice on December 21.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Repair of the Soul and Repair of the World

I haven’t stopped reeling since the horror of last Tuesday night began to unfold, as it became clear that a vindictive, inarticulate narcissist with the moral compass of a rhesus monkey, and the qualifications of my cat, will become the next president of the United States.

It’s cold comfort that by the time the count is complete, Donald Trump will probably be behind Hilary Clinton by well over a million popular votes. The greed, social injustice, and ecological pillage that he promises to unleash will surely match and probably outstrip that of the Reagan years. And Reagan, at least, that simple-minded hack now canonized by the American right, at least had two terms as governor of California behind him before he assumed the most powerful office in the world. The flames of hatred and division that Trump fanned as he cut his campaign swath through the body politic will engulf for years the glimmers of the more just and tolerant society that we might instead have evolved into.
This is no time to retreat into a shell of private serenity and personal fulfilment. It’s not a time to collapse in despair. Neither is it a time to lash out in fury.
It’s a time to recognize that the only way to heal the soul is to repair the world, and the only way to heal the world is to repair the soul. The most authentic foundation for action is contemplation, as Franciscan Richard Rohr reminds us. And the litmus test that our spiritual practice isn’t mere self-delusion is conversely that it bears fruit in the world.
It’s a time to deepen our awareness through spiritual practice that our lives are not restricted to our small, isolated selves alone, but are nourished by the web of connections through which our life flows in and out of ourselves, in and out of each other, in and out of all creatures. And it’s a time to live out that awareness by building and sustaining networks of solidarity and action that will keep hope alive through dark years that we’re almost certainly facing.
It’s a time to donate to organizations that struggle for justice and dignity of the marginalized--to the American Civil Liberties Union, to the Southern Poverty Law Center, to Planned Parenthood, to a dozen others. Till we can’t afford to give more.
It’s a time to volunteer one’s talents and energy.
It’s a time to help settle refugees and to protect them from xenophobia.
It’s a time to participate in peaceful demonstrations.
It’s a time to pour out into the streets in solidarity with the victims of hate crimes.
It’s a time to work for positive change at more local levels, since the federal government has failed us all. It’s some comfort that progressive measures on a range of issues passed at state and local levels on Tuesday: the minimum wage was raised, transit projects were funded, possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use was decriminalized; a ballot measure for a single-payer health-care system in Colorado went down to resounding defeat, but at least it was on the ballot. More such measures will surely be on state ballots as Congress dismantles the Affordable Care Act.
It’s a time for queer men of spirit to recognize that what’s done to our Muslim brothers and sisters, our Hispanic brothers and sisters, our black brothers and sisters, our impoverished brothers and sisters, our trans brothers and sisters, our indigenous brothers and sisters,  is done to us, and to act accordingly. It’s a time to remember that we are the guardians of the Earth who is our Mother and of whom we remain a part, and to act accordingly.
It’s a time to remember that every time we make love, we win.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

So Not a 10

If you’re of my generation, you almost certainly remember Dudley Moore in “10,” playing the middle-aged guy who’s convinced he’ll find every fulfilment life has to offer if can only get into bed with Bo Derek. The funniest scene in the movie, and the one nearly everyone vividly remembers (how could you not?) is the two of them alone at last as the fantasy dissolves into contretemps while they negotiate positions around the clattering beads of her hair extensions and continuous interruptions to restart the stereo, because she can only climax to Ravel’s “Bolero.”

The craziness of our erotic fantasies lies at least partly in that we imagine they’re about connecting with other people. Then we connect, and realize that on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is a perfect fit between what we’d dreamed about and what’s happening, being face to face with this man/with these men is, like, so not a 10. It’s not at all what we imagined. Instead, it’s real, waking life, in the presence of someone else whose inner world and whose fantasies are as complex as our own, and as unfamiliar as another country. Therapist Hedy Schleifer talks about crossing the bridge to the world of the other, “carrying only my passport in a clear plastic bag.”
The moments of disillusionment that ensue are critical, and precious. They’re a wakeup call from self-absorbed (and self-deluding) slumber. We can slap the alarm off and go back to sleep--or in this case, back off in disappointment and go on dreaming the impossible wet dream. We can go on sleeping our way through a dozen more sexual encounters, or a hundred, or a thousand, thinking the next one will offer it all, whatever the fuck “it” is.
Or else, we can begin to recognize that all longing is only imperfectly answerable, and the real magic starts when we fall more deeply into the encounter that’s here before us, now.
In the light of another’s difference, paradoxically we come to know ourselves better. We can start to look at our fantasies themselves to ask what they mean, where they come from, why we find them so compelling. And in the eyes and arms of one who isn’t ourselves, we can come to feel the presence of One who isn’t ourselves.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Gotta Love Those Jesuits

At the field house on the campus of St. Louis University.

(Courtesy of Hoppergrass.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

No Excuse for Sex


A few days ago I had coffee with a friend who wanted some information on the work of the Body Electric School. I shared my own experience of how powerful BE’s work can be, and of the deep impact I’ve seen it make on others.
Later on, the talk turned to sex-positive Christianity. My friend brought up one of the best books of the 1970s on the subject: James Nelson’s Embodiment: An Approach to Sexuality and Christian Theology. (Nelson went on to write further important work on the subject: Between Two Gardens: Reflections on Sexuality and Religious Experience (1983); The Intimate Connection: Male Sexuality and Masculine Spirituality (1988); Body Theology (1992).
Though Nelson’s book was a breath of fresh air in its day, I observed that he still felt the need to make a defensive plea that sex is fine because it’s in the service of another, more legitimate, good. I shared with my friend my general sense that even now, nearly forty years on, that’s pretty much the best you can hope for from official church discourse.
Conservative Christian theology still sees the excuse for sex being procreation and  the containment of lust, while traditional Christian marriage ceremonies still cite Paul’s dictum that the relation between man and wife is an allegory of that between Christ and the Church. (Try keeping that in mind in your bedroom.)
Most liberal Christian theological approaches are looser, but still can’t get past the notion that sex has to be justified.  Liberals mostly just shift to a broader understanding of what could rescue sex from, well, just being sex. Nobody who has to watch their back in Churchland is likely to say that sex needs no more justification as part of a lovingly created world than our impulse to eat, to sleep, to breathe, to seek out companionship, to create homes, to explore the world.
Of course our sexual choices have far-reaching ethical implications. But our sexual longings, our sexual expressions, shouldn’t be subject to a tyranny of surveillance about the end that justifies them any more than a dozen other aspects of our lives. Our erotic inclinations and experiences are rich material for reflection on the nature of our relations with our deepest selves, with others, with God. It’s the quality of those relations we should be paying attention to, not whether our experiences pass muster before the fact because we have an excuse for them. There’s no excuse for sex, and there doesn’t need to be.

Monday, October 3, 2016


This second night of Rosh Hashanah 5777, I repeat what I wrote six years ago on the anniversary of Creation, the sanctified center around which the year revolves; the sanctified womb from which all that we make of our lives emerges; the still point to which we return to hear again the heartbeat of the cosmos in the sound of a ramshorn blown ceremonially into the silence:

“I’m blessed to come to this tradition without the baggage that almost inevitably accompanies the negative associations of our early spiritual lives. From my place at the edge of the congregation, this is what blows me away, if you’ll pardon the pun, in hearing the excruciating bronze-age cry of the shofar: that time itself is holy. That we are accountable for what we make of it. That amidst its ever-rolling stream, change is a gift. That if we can only stretch so far, we can learn to see even our own mortality as an aspect of that gift. That, miraculously, we get more time, a second chance, when we need one. That the Mystery is infinitely larger than our souls, but that our souls, together with the souls of those we love and of those we mourn, are and will always remain a worthy and endlessly precious part of that Mystery.

“That every cry in the Middle East for peace, security, dignity and justice–from Muslim, Christian, and Jew alike--is the sound of the shofar.

“That the cry of Matthew Shepard dying alone, tied to a fence in Wyoming, was the sound of the shofar.

“That the cry of men in the shared ecstasy of their lovemaking is the sound of the shofar.

“That the cry of an oil-soaked pelican in a marsh destroyed by the criminal greed, negligence, and stupidity of oil companies is the sound of the shofar.

“That the shout of my late schizophrenic neighbour, “Kill the Fags!” when he was off his meds, and his apology when he was in remission, were the sound of the shofar.

“That the laughter of children over a garden wall is the sound of the shofar.”

And let us say, Amen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Variations on a Theme? Or a New Composition? -- A guest post by Hoppergrass

I’ve been masturbating since I sprang my first boner in the 1950’s. But now, bathing in the afterglow of a prolonged session of self-pleasuring, I wonder about the relationship between the frantic jacking of that long-mutated teen and the erotic spiritualism of this now mellowed elder.  

I still can recall the combination of surprise, embarrassment and fear that accompanied each unsolicited erection, occurring at the most inopportune times, as well as my fascination that became an addiction with ejaculation. Watching my penis squirt, feeling the heat of cum ropes across my belly and chest, fingering the congealing jism marmalading my emergent fur, smelling and finally tasting this wondrous evidence of my manhood became an end in itself. Jacking off became a conscious choice rather than a poorly understood biologic imperative. A few years later, when the first hand that was not mine jacked my cock and subsequently the first mouth sucked me off, and finally the first time I fucked a vagina and then an ass, I was still performing solo-sex: I was pleasuring my penis. I sexually engaged with others not so much as to pleasure my partner-of-the-moment or even achieve equal pleasuring, but rather to find additional opportunities and additional means of satisfying the demands of my cock.  

But those demands had morphed from pleasuring to a means of release: release of anxiety, of frustration, of anger, and of dissatisfaction. I jacked multiple times each day beginning with my morning toilet, in bathroom stalls at work, while driving the car, behind bushes and trees, and finally in an attempt to achieve nocturnal sleep. And the more I jacked, the less satisfactory: the release had become repetitive motion without any satisfaction. 

Meaningless middle-aged masturbation coincided with my inability to effectively suppress my long-known awareness of my homosexual identity. The Net had arrived, and I was able to read coming-out stories of older men as well as younger. 

I introduced myself to edging. I began gradually to realize that manipulating my cock and balls, then my nipples, then my entire body surface and finally my ass delivered (and still juicily delivers) a physical, emotional, and eventually spiritual experience completely novel to me. Through Body Electric and Men’s Tantra workshops as well as the generosity of a few very special men, I allowed myself the freedom to engage, explore, and emote in the presence of like-minded seekers. In short, I not only accept my True-Self but became able to share that True-Self with others. Today engaging myself sexually alone or with other men is no longer in either case solo-sex for me; it is a continuous journey within sacred erotic space accompanied at all times by my beloveds, whether they are physically present or not. 

How different my personal development might have been had that testosterone OD’d boy-man been inducted into manhood by this experienced elder.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mount Athos, with a Twist

Last weekend, nineteen open-hearted, gifted men lived for  three sweet days in intentional  community at Stonesong Center in western Maryland, as guests of the beautiful, generous-hearted couple who steward the land there.

Our temple was the second floor of a barn. The odd bat flew through at night. There were crickets and cicadas and tree frogs. The full moon silvered the nocturnal landscape.
The magic that arose among us in less than seventy-two hours was deep and powerful, and more than Frank Dunn and I, who led the retreat, could have asked or imagined. I won’t presume to describe everything that happened--first, because, well, you had to be there, and second, because so much of what took place belongs to that sacred gathering and that gathering alone.
But for me, the most vivid, the most powerful memory of the retreat was the experience of the land itself transformed into holy ground by our shared practice: a line of prayer flags made by each of us to mark the respective spots we’d chosen as the site of personal shrines. Over the course of the next two days, we deepened our practice by tending those shrines and welcoming one another as pilgrims to our holy places. Walking along the path, looking up the slope, rounding a corner, wandering in the woods, we came upon these witnesses to the riches of other men’s souls made into invitations to look deeper, to open wider, to feel ourselves woven into a web of connection richer than anything we could have achieved without one another.
Many religious traditions have birthed landscapes honeycombed with gestures of reverence. The dwellings of the Essenes of Qumran; the hermitages of the Egyptian desert; the monastic cells of Mount Athos; the temples of the mountain that towers over Miyajima in the Inland Sea; the folk shrines of northern New Mexico. Last weekend, we became heirs to that broad human heritage--but with a twist: a community of queer men laying claim for ourselves and our tribe to that from which the keepers of so many of those traditions have attempted to exclude us.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Holy Hardness: a guest post from Robin Gorsline

The Rev. Dr.. Robin Gorsline identifies as a poet, Queer theologian, and spiritual activist and also serves as Writer-Theologian in Residence at a D.C. church. By his permission, his poem below is reblogged  from the wonderful blog site, If Whitman hadn’t needed to practice at least a degree of understatement, I find myself wondering whether he might not have written something like this poem.

Holy Hardness

I woke this morning with a more or less hard-on.
It felt so good I kept it up during meditation
feeling as if God's real presence had settled in my cock
each stroke connecting to a breath, holding my little guy
between, and knowing that my body and my God are connected
in sacred erotic embrace.

Some may see blasphemy in this connection but I remember
Jesus, the Incarnate One, who when focused on healings
and teaching may have set aside his cock but I feel sure in those
quiet alone times away from companions and the world
he too found his hard, connecting with God and his sacred
body with the caresses that bring joy to me.

That early erotic energy continued throughout the day
as I, naked, sat writing and touching myself, feeling the high that comes
when I begin to point toward climax. But I did not want
to explode then, saving it for joy with my man.
I did begin to hope that this time, unlike so many others lately,
our lovemaking might result in the eruption of precious liquid love.

To bed we went that night, and oh how his mouth on my cock and mine on his
brought sweet electric sensations, rising exquisite pure yearning
giving hope that here, now, we, phallus and I, if we can truly be understood
as separate, might experience embodied communion. But it was not to be then, though
my man lay across me and thrust his member between my legs and
ejaculated Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Thank you God!

This old man did not despair, however, and with more pure organic coconut oil,
I lay gazing on the beauty of my man, stroking, stroking, up, down, up and down
the small but sturdy shaft went from fairly hard to less and back. Then I rose to stand
in front of the mirror to enjoy my own self-lovemaking and knew, oh I knew,
that with more vigorous strokes and a turn back to see the naked
languorous body of my beloved on the bed I would indeed favor the world
with divine liquid love of life--oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Thank you, my God!

It was holy communion then, embodied memory now a few hours past. I sit and type
and stroke and yet again give thanks to my parent God, and Jesus, and Holy Spirit,
grateful to have been created for this mystic sweet union, certain my beloved
and I were brought together for such a time as this, and more to come, yes, more cum.

I am called, we most are called, to such communion, divine eros joining bodies
in delight and ecstasy, it matters not the particular bodies, body parts, numbers,
or ways of joining, all are blessed because all are loved, God sharing
in the joy of orgasm as well as licking, sucking, fucking, kissing,
wondering why we carry so much shame about this holy gift.

So I write, a man now almost three score and ten, slower of gait
but still erect, even at times for my beloved, and when not so favored
I still know pleasure in touch and tongue--I swear so long as I live
I shall enjoy such holy hardness as it is mine to receive and share,
praising God with my upward and more often softer shaft.

It is not performance that counts, or even size, but faithfulness
to union with and through sacred eros, giving thanks to God.

Copyright Robin Gorsline 2016
Used by permission

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Green Man

Thanks to John Archibald, for sharing here his homage to the Lord of the Forest. John writes this:

"I love Greenmen. Such mysterious male energy. Must be those faces made only of leaves; that image invites a kind of primal reaction from the viewer. Weird, but it catches at you, as if reminding you of something you’d forgotten, long ago. Some of the medieval ones actually have roots growing out of their mouths. There was a shop in the gay neighborhood of Hillcrest in San Diego, called Column One, where over the years I found a number of Greenmen, orginally in an unpainted beige plaster, and have painted a number of them.

"I found as well a number of Greek gods here and there, which I’ve also painted. In the ancient world, practically all the statues were painted, with the larger, more important ones being made of molded sheets of ivory and gold, with semi-precious gems for eyes. They must have been amazing!"